Toyota Continues to Deny Electronic Acceleration Problems in Toyota and Lexus Cars

Toyota Continues to Deny Electronic Acceleration Problems in Toyota and Lexus Cars

In late January, Toyota halted U.S. production and sales of eight models related to defective accelerator pedals. However, plaintiffs in some lawsuits against Toyota claim that the pedals are not to blame for sudden acceleration problems and neither are the floor mats that were part of certain Toyota and Lexus recalls.
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In a recent feature on MSNBC, experts said the acceleration problem is most likely not just one issue, but several issues that are more complicated and impact each other.

Toyota has told the government that it believes there is a friction problem in the accelerator pedal mechanism that can make the pedal “harder to depress, slower to return, or, in the worst case, mechanically stuck in a partially depressed position.”

But the Indiana company that produces the accelerator mechanism says this friction problem is responsible for only about 12 of the cases that have occurred and went on to say that “in no instance did the accelerator actually become stuck in a partially depressed condition.”

The MSNBC special asserts that if the problem truly was just one component, such as the mechanism or the floor mats that Toyota would not be in the mess it has found itself in.

Other experts have blamed the complex series of electronic sensors that control messaging between the gas pedal and engine. A fail-safe mechanism that could override and prevent the problems was discontinued after 2001.

Sean Kane, president of Safety Research and Strategies, a car safety advocacy group is “convinced this is a multifaceted problem. You’ve got a multitude of problems that are coming to the surface that result in one thing: unintended acceleration.”

The electronic throttle control is the subject of at least two class action lawsuits in the U.S. and Canada, while other suits relate to problems with floor mats as well as the accelerator mechanism.

Toyota however, continues to deny that electronic issues are to blame. John Hanson, a spokesman for Toyota Japan said, “After many years of extensive testing by us and other organizations, we have found no evidence for an electronic problem that would have led to unintended acceleration.”

Jim Lentz, President of Toyota Motor Sales in the U.S. said, “Electronics are not part of the issue.”

Safety Research & Strategies, an auto safety advocacy group, says it has documented 2,262 incidents of sudden acceleration involving Toyota vehicles since 1999. These resulted in 815 crashes, 341 injuries and 19 deaths.

An attorney for one of the class-action lawsuits against Toyota doesn’t believe the problems are over, saying “A pedal fix is the easiest for Toyota. My belief is that fixed Toyotas with new pedals will still inadvertently accelerate.”

A Texas lawsuit says that Toyota and Lexus models featuring the ETCS-I system are designed so “the engine’s throttle is controlled by electronic signals that are sent from a sensor that detects the position of the gas pedal to an electronic control module.”

Plaintiffs of the suit allege that this electronic control device determines how much throttle is being requested and sends an electronic signal to the engine that operates the throttle. In pre-2001 Toyota and Lexus models, there was a redundant “fail-safe” mechanical link between the accelerator pedal and the throttle control that kicks in if there is unintended acceleration.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it has tested for electronic interference and found no evidence to support allegations of a defect.

However, recent Congressional hearings have questioned whether the NHTSA has the expertise to properly test the sophisticated electronic system now standard on most vehicles.

Paul M. Regis

Paul Regis has been reporting on class action lawsuits for over 10 years.